#833 Wish You Well by David Baldacci

Wish You Well by David BaldacciWish You Well by David Baldacci

Lou and her brother Oz have to move to Virginia, to a farm, in fact, after they were in a terrible car accident. Their parents had been arguing about moving to California, when the accident occurred. Their father didn’t make it and their mother was left as a shell of herself. They were all put on a train to go live with their great-grandmother on her farm. Louisa is a tough woman, but is very caring and eager to give everyone the opportunities they deserve.

The two children soon make friends with a young man named Diamond, well, Jimmy, but everyone calls him Diamond. He has no family. Their great-grandmother looks after him. He’s free to roam the hills. Another man, named Eugene, but most people call him Hell No, lives with Louisa. People make a fuss about it because he’s black, but Louisa doesn’t care.

The local lawyer comes to read to their mother every day. All she does is sit there.

Besides their mother, there are other problems. Natural gas has been bound on their grandmother’s farm and a development company wants to buy it. They try to turn the entire town against her saying they won’t buy any property from anyone else in town, unless Louisa sells hers. There is a tragic accident in a mine, which causes everyone to mourn, but it also brings suspicion on the company trying to buy everyone out. More unfortunate things happen, but can the children avoid the most unfortunate thing of all?

What I liked

This is the first time I’ve read a David Baldacci book and I’m not disappointed. There are other writers who do the South better, but David does a pretty good job depicting Southern life. He’s depicting Southern mountain life, which is different from straight-up Southern life. There’s something different about mountain people from the South. I am technically a mountain person from the South, so you can probably take my word for it.

Grandmothers are pretty great. I liked that Lou and Oz got to know their grandmother for a while and learn from her. Sometimes, your grandmother can teach you the best lessons in life.

What I didn’t like

While I do feel that David did a great job with the whole Southern thing, I kind of feel some of the struggles that the people in this book face are cliché. You know, of course the small Southern town back in the 1940s-1950s is racist. Of course people don’t like that one person is friends with a black person. Of course some evil company does nefarious things trying to get someone’s land. Of course when you start talking about money, the rest of the town turns on you fast. Of course it’s the mom who went crazy.

I’ve read so many books where one, or more, of these issues is in the book. While it may be true that all of these issues could have been, and can be, very real problems, people do have other problems. Why is it never the dad who has the mental breakdown? It always seems like it’s the woman.

Overall

Hide your minerals! The big company is coming to take your land!

Weigh In

If some company offered you a lot of money for your land, would you sell it, knowing they were just going to destroy it?

Are stereotypical problems enjoyable to read about because they’re familiar, or do they get old?

The Transition of Juan Romero

The Transition of Juan RomeroThe Transition of Juan Romero

In Mexico, there was a man working in the mines. Alongside himself was a man named Juan Romero. Many supposed that Juan was a Mexican, or an Indian, but his color just wasn’t quite right. It was supposed that he was an heir to an older race. The narrator of the story wore a Hindu ring. This ring came to him, but no really knew where it came from.

One day, the miners had used a very large amount of explosives to blast open what they thought was solid rock. As it turned out, it was not solid. A large chasm opened up. The chasm seemed to have no end. Lengths of rope were passed down into the chasm, only to reach no bottom. Many were scared of the chasm and refused to work in the mines.

There was a storm one night. It was a strange storm with strange clouds. Strange noises were heard in the night. A coyote, a dog, and something else. Juan, who did not speak much English at all, told the narrator that the sound was coming from the Earth. There was a deep throbbing sound that both the narrator and Juan heard. They were both compelled out of their hut and up the mountain, inside of it, to the chasm.

Juan ran ahead of the narrator and reached the chasm first, only to be swallowed up by it. The narrator noticed that his ring had been giving off a strange light. The colossal chasm was now aglow. Our narrator looked into it and could not repeat what he saw. There was a large commotion and the chasm closed up again.

In the morning, the narrator awoke in his bed. Juan was there too, in body, but his spirit was gone. Juan was dead. The others said that neither Juan, nor the narrator, had left their bunks all night. The ring was also gone, strangely. No one would admit to taking it. The chasm, which had closed up in the commotion, was attempted again, but all the miners found was solid rock. It was as if the chasm was never there and Juan made his transition to something else, in the most frightening manner.

Observations

I am sure that miners have many superstitions. It is quite a dangerous job, one that I don’t know nearly enough about. Certainly, if I found some unexplained chasm in the Earth, I would be a bit reluctant about the idea of going near it. Who knows what is down there.

I kept thinking of Ted the Caver while reading this story. We don’t know if Ted ever made it back alive, but at least our narrator did.

Themes

Some things shouldn’t be messed with. It’s pretty simple. Do you know what that big red button does? No? Well, don’t press it. If you don’t know enough about something to be able to predict at least ten outcomes, then you shouldn’t be messing with it. If you find a large chasm, that mysteriously opened up while you were mining, perhaps leave it to the geologists, at the very least.

There are so many concerns associated with this scenario.

Let’s tackle the realistic first. This chasm could have undermined the integrity of the ground you’re standing on. You don’t know how stable the ground beneath your feet is. You also don’t know how stable the tunnels are that you’ve been walking through. You don’t know if you’ve released a pocket of gas that is hazardness to breathe. You don’t know if you’ve unleashed a reservoir of underground water that will flood your tunnels.  You don’t know if you’ve unleashed a pit of giant snakes. Maybe there are lots of bats in there. Maybe there is some nasty anaerobic bacteria down there that can eat your flesh off. Maybe you tapped into a magma tube and now you’ve got a volcano on your hands.

Now, for the more fantastic scenarios– suppose you’ve found a gateway to Hell? Or the subterranean land of the lizard people? A room full of demons? Vampires who have been thrown in a cave to rot? Ancient, cursed burial grounds? I mean, really, it could be anything.

Whether you want to take the realistic scenarios, or the fantastic, if you find a big, giant hole in the ground that appeared there under mysterious circumstances, leave it alone. Let the geologists, or the demonologists, whoever, get in there and do their thing first, then, maybe, you can go in there and poke at stuff.

Overall

Stay away from big holes in the ground?

Weigh In

If a mysterious hole opened up in your backyard what would you do?

Are some things better left alone?

#410 A Rap Upon Heaven’s Gate by Hugh Howey

A Rap Upon Heaven's Gate by Hugh HoweyA Rap Upon Heaven’s Gate by Hugh Howey

At this point I want to know if Hugh has written any more books in the Sand series. Let me go check…no, apparently there is not, but as far as good news goes, Hugh has apparently done some updates to his website. It looks more Sci-Fi now.

This is the last installment of the Sand series. So what happens? Well, our family manages to meet up again. Palmer is weak and can barely move. His sister rescued him from almost certain death out in the sand. They get to Springston just a minute too late. The sand pirates have blown up the wall that holds the sand back from the city. Destruction reigns.

Vic goes straight for her mother’s brothel, The Honey Hole, to check on her family. The brothel is under sand, but Vic uses all her might and her dive suit, to move the honey hole out of the worst of the sand. Her family is inside, even the new sister. They’re all there, alive, some just barely, but they’re alive. Vic doesn’t have time to stay with them. There are people trapped under the sand. She gives Marco’s dive suit to her little brother Conner and they set to their grim task of trying to rescue people from underneath the sand. They manage to rescue about a hundred people, but that’s it. Out of an entire town, they find about a hundred people.

Palmer has already told Vic about the plans to destroy Low Pub as well, so Vic has to go there. Who they meet is an old friend, but he’s turned to the dark side. What the renegades pulled out of Danvar was not some piddly little weapon, it was an atomic bomb. They plan to detonate it in Low Pub. With some quick thinking from Conner, the men don’t get their chance. Conner and Vic have to decide what to do with the bomb. After finally reading the letter from her father, Vic has an idea.

Vic takes her sarfer and goes towards No Man’s Land; she takes the bomb with her. Her family has been instructed to go west as her father said in the letter. They’re not supposed to wait on her, but they do. In a few days they see a large mushroom cloud in the distance and they know Vic has pulled off her plan. They eagerly await her return.

What I liked

I had a chance to read a bit about what Hugh thought his book was about while on his website. Hugh said he was trying to write a book about people who need help, but don’t get it. We’re not talking psychological help, although that could be included in this overall “help;” we’re talking about help(food, clothing, political aid, monetary aid). Too many times we watch the news and see this impoverished area of the world. Sure, they’re impoverished, but the government has a blockade against them or whatever. Often, political or financial institutions can get in the way of helping a person. The bad people in this book series know about Low Pub and Springston. They know there are people living on the sand. They don’t care. They are busy with their profitable mining operation and they just flat-out don’t care. Sure their mining operation is making life miserable for these people, but again, they don’t care. Money talks and in this case money says, “Screw those guys! You’re making money.”

Families can get annoying. I’ve got one, I know. My family is one of those families that have developed a communication system faster than the speed of light. So if you do something embarrassing, the entire family is sure to know in about .00000001 seconds. I’m not actually going to look up the speed of light and figure out how to calculate something that is faster than the speed of light, so if that is incorrect, you’ll just have to deal with it. Just pretend. Vic’s family is annoying. She’s ashamed of them for various reasons, one of them being her mom is a prostitute. You really don’t get much lower than being the kid of a prostitute. Vic rebels against the idea of her mother and her profession, but when it comes down to it, Vic loves her family. She risks her life to save them from being buried under tons of sand. She does something that seems impossible, adrenaline rush and all of that. She realizes that her family is important and she would do anything for them despite all of their annoyingness.

What I didn’t like

Let’s talk about mining. For those of you from the mountainous regions of the world, you might know a little about mining. For the rest of you, you’re probably not so familiar with any of the processes. I come from an area where there are gold mines and copper mines. There are also a few gravel quarries. There are different types of mining. I don’t have the technical names for all of them. There are some types of mining that are less invasive and environmentally dangerous than others, for instance, traditional mining where you literally dig a shaft into the side of a mountain and go in there with a pick axe like you’re one of the seven dwarfs. There are other types of mining that are environmentally disastrous, strip mining and fracking. Fracking is mining for natural gas and not mineral. Some of these mining practices may not be dangerous to humans, excepting their usage of certain chemicals. Take gold mining for example. It’s usually not dangerous to people unless you count freak accidents, but sometimes people mining gold use mercury to aid in their mining processes. Mercury is bad for you. If you live near a stream where gold miners used a lot of mercury, there could very well be detrimental effects to your health.

Why do I mention all of this? I mention all of this to make a point, as usual. Mining can be very dangerous to people and to the environment. We need to mine things… coal, natural gas, minerals, and so forth, but we need to be careful about doing it. I don’t know if Hugh intended to make this political statement about the safety of various mining procedures when he wrote this series, but ultimately, that’s what he ended up doing. We’ve got this great book series all about how dangerous mining practices can not only screw up the environment, but screw up people as well.

Overall

I really enjoyed the Sand series and I hope Hugh writes more about these people who survive on the sand.